Redhead Baby Mama | Atlanta Mom Blogger

Thursday, October 30, 2014

VIDEO Review | Shark Lift Away Vacuum

I have a dirty house.  It's usually picked up, but the constant laundry, dishes and crap that collect everywhere is maddening. I blame the boys. Red is a tornado, and Hubs likes to leave cups everywhere and his work stuff scattered on the counters (please note the kettle is not calling the pot black, and it is aware that she is messy, too...).  I lamented by woes to the folks at Shark at Type A Conference, and after learning about my big Bulldog, a hairy calico and two messy boys, they were so understanding!
The Shark LiftAway Vacuum is a transformer! Takes on Pet hair with no problem... BETTER than a Dyson Animal.
Since Shark Cleaning is debuting the new Shark Rotator Lift Away Vacuum, I was very happy to help them review it.  But truthfully, I was skeptical. Could it even match the performance of my Dyson Animal? Could it really sweep up all those tiny, pointy, short dog hairs? What about kitty litter? Cheerios? The list goes on  and on...

Take a look at the full review of the appliance - it's my second video review, and I'm getting the hang of this vlogging thing!

If you were able to watch the whole video, then you'll have noticed I'm now a convert to the Shark brand.  Right before the video, I had vacuumed the house with my Animal... and just a few sweeps of the Shark behind it and TONS of dust and hair were lifted out. GROSS.  Really gross.  I'm so impressed that the other vacuum might have to go live at the Goodwill, because I'm sold on this 3-way Shark.  

The slim profile of the head can get under tables and mouldings that my other vacuums can't touch.  The lift away lets me climb the stairs and grab all the gook that collects on the treads, and my personal favorite, the pet hair head actually grabbed dog hair embedded in velvet cushions.  This Shark is working hard!

Did you catch the furry cameos in the video? See if you can catch all three!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Caribbean Cocktails - Beachy Mixology for Summer Anytime

At the Turks and Caicos Beaches Resort, I had my delectable fill of hand-crafted cocktails from world class bartenders.  Since all top shelf alcohol, blended drinks and sodas are included at Beaches, I was never afraid to try something new, or splurge on something exotic and frozen.  One of my favorite bartenders was Leighton, who was always personable, knowledgeable and found joy in everything he did.  The fact that he knew how to handle his well bottles and entertain you with some tricks was the cherry on top!

A video posted by Lindsey (@redheadbabymama) on


I had the pleasure of taking a tropical mixology class with Leighton and some other #BeachesMoms and managed to jot down some of my favorites recipes.  To tell you the truth, some of them were Leighton's own creations and only he knew the recipe.  So if you get down to Turks and Caicos, find him near the Italian swim up bar or the Turtles Lounge! (Fun fact: Did you know that Sandals invented the swim up bar? They are in the Guinness Book of World Records for it!) The recipes are yours to tweak in terms of amounts - pour lightly and change to your taste. 

Ladies Delight
This light purple drink features lemonade, notes of raspberry and is incredibly refreshing.  It was unanimously enjoyed by everyone!
Raspberry Vodka
Cranberry Juice
Heavy squeeze of Lime Juice
Fill the glass with Lemonade & Ice
Shake and serve

Grapes and Caicos
My classmates and I really enjoyed this one, too. It's bright, tangy and sweet all at the same time.
Blackberry Brandy
Sprite
Heavy Squeeze of Lime
Ice and Shake 
Pour into glass and top heavily with Sprite

Caribbean Blue Sky
This pretty blue drink mimics the color of the Turks and Caicos surf and is really a Leighton-knowledge-only drink!
Raspberry vodka
Blue Curacao
Peach Schnapps
Lime Squeeze
Lemonade
Shake with Ice, serve and enjoy

Beaches Resorts Rum Punch
Beaches Resorts creates and serves a lot of these rum punches across the property, and it's no wonder since they appeal to all run lovers! 
Equal parts of Orange and Pineapple Juice with a heavy pour of Grenadine (These 3 ingredients make the juice portion)
Combine equal parts of Light Rum, Dark Rum and White Rum (Beaches uses the Appleton Jamaican brand) 
Mix together over ice and serve

Jamaican Smile
Leighton referred to this drink as the "breakfast of the beach." While it's the only frozen drink on this list, and a tasty way to get some fruit in the mornings! 
Add into blender: one banana, 1/2 cup of strawberry puree, heavy pour of Irish Cream, splash of 2% milk and ice.  
Blend  and serve in a tall glass. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Kid-Friendly Halloween Snacks & Crafts

There are tons of people out there that love Halloween - my brother and I were always excited to dress up and decorate our house by ourselves, which left my poor Mom shaking her head at our cotton ball and scotch tape spiderwebs.  But she smiled anyway and let us go about it.  Ty and I were always so happy.  As I've grown up, I've become and absolute Christmas nut, so Halloween and Thanksgiving haven't really had too much of a chance.  

With Red becoming a toddler, I've remembered how important it is to give him some rich experiences, to have new surprises and crafts to celebrate all holidays.  It's for him that I drug out my Mom's old snacks and crafts to celebrate the Eve of the Dead!  (If you're tuning in from Atlanta Plugged In, WELCOME! I'm so glad you're here!  Be sure to catch my Mom Squad segments, too!)  

These kid friendly crafts and snacks will have your toddlers and even older children excited for the upcoming holiday.  Be sure to try one or two out in your house! 
Kid Friendly Halloween Snacks and Crafts: includes Mummy Dogs, Ghost Pops and Shrieking Pretzels
A roll of scotch tape (washi or painter's tape will do just fine on delicate surfaces) and a 99 cent bag of spider webbing meets even the strictest Halloween budgets.  Let your child string this soft cotton through chairs, on stair banisters, over doorways and maybe on the mantle.  It's soft, easy to tape and is super fun to add spiders too. Let your children experiment with this craft!
Kid Friendly Halloween Snacks and Crafts: includes Mummy Dogs, Ghost Pops and Shrieking Pretzels
 Mummy dogs have been around for years, but with the advent of Pinterest, are becoming popular again! Using all beef (nitrate free!) hot dogs, roll long, thin pieces of croissant rolls around each of them, wrapping your "mummy" however you see fit.  Bake at 350 degrees for 14 minutes (or as directed on your croissant package) and decorate the faces with some glowing yellow mustard.  
Shrieking Pretzels are my new favorite! Take yogurt or white chocolate covered pretzels, and fill the "eyes" with melted white baking chocolate.  Then, layer in some candies like Skittles, M&Ms or Reese's pieces and top with a mini chocolate chip.  Vary the eyes looking up, down or to the side to create some shocking faces! Try not to get caught up in the "perfectionist look" of the shrieking pretzel. Have FUN and make them your own!
Ghost Pops are a blast from my past.  Take a Kleenex or facial tissue and fold in a tootsie roll pop (a great gluten free treat) and secure with a pipe cleaner or rubber band.  Use a marker to draw on some extra spooky faces!
Kid Friendly Halloween Snacks and Crafts: includes Mummy Dogs, Ghost Pops and Shrieking Pretzels
What is your favorite Halloween food? Maybe you have a tradition like carving pumpkins with your family on the 30th, or taking a trip to the orchard.  What really makes your holiday spooky?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Have a Luxury Vacation with ALL the Generations of Your Family

It's been a week since I hopped a plane and took my mom with me to Turks and Caicos for the Beaches Resorts at Turks and Caicos Social Media on the Sand Conference.  Nearly 6 months ago, I planned a trip to learn more about the all-inclusive vacation brand that touts luxury services that are the best in the world.  When we finally hopped on the airplane, I didn't really know what to expect.  I had heard about romantic Sandals Resorts and knew Beaches was it's family-friendly sister brand.  What I didn't realize was that Beaches is a vacation destination that offers every generation of your family a fabulous vacation at the same time, at a price better than a cruise.  
Beaches Turks and Caicos Italian Village Sign
Leaving Red and Hubs at home was pretty hard. Everywhere I looked, there were families with children of all ages, and several families had multiple generations traveling with them (aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc.), having a glorious time.  But eventually I noticed that not only were these families having a great time, but my Mom was, too.  When I was holed up in the conference room learning, she was exploring the local markets, enjoying a cocktail, shopping the stores, and strolling the beach.  When we were together, I brought out the kid in her splashing in the warm turquoise water, building a sand castle, walking the lush gardens and dancing in the streets to the Sesame Street parades.  She was having a great time!
During nearly the entire vacation, we would be talking with each other about the different activities that Beaches offered, and which part of our family would be loving it.  For my brother, we reminisced that as a teenager, he would have either been skipping around the 45,000 sq. ft. water park and splash fountains or stuffing his face full of ice cream sundaes (part of the all inclusive meals!), knee deep in airhockey and shuffleboard or gaming in the spacious XBOX lounge (which was full of nearly every game you could imagine, and there were enough consoles that are never lines!), and then nowadays, parked at the swim up bar or the dance club at night.  

My Dad would have relished in the padded beach chairs (for any guest - not just private cabanas!), the included swim, snorkel and scuba diving trips to the reef, as well as the extra excursions and fishing charters.  Topped off with a plated dinner at the Italian restaurants and an in-room scotch, Dad would be pleasantly surprised with the level of luxury service offered by every resort employee.  
My Nana (grandmother) would have loved several of the resort shopping areas, from the general store to the jewelry store to the beach fashions and couture handbags.  Not to mention that all the ladies in my family would have loved to visit the Spa.  Mom and I made sure to book an appointment for the body scrubs and facials, which were affordably priced (Spa treatments, champagne and excursions cost money at Beaches... nearly everything else is included), and simply divine.  I'm so glad we opted for this special time!
Red Lane Spa Beaches Resorts
But if you're only traveling with older family, like teenagers, parents, or heck, if you're just with your spouse, Beaches is a fabulous place to be.  The resort grounds are extensive, so you're never bumping elbows with anyone.  Plenty of chairs (which can't be said for a cruise), wide sidewalks, 12 miles of soft sandy beaches, and with 19 restaurants (all included... even Hibachi, sushi, 50's dining and an English pub), so there's no waiting list and NO paying for drinks. Ever. Top shelf liquor, many wines, sodas, good teas - it's ALL included. 
Turks and Caicos Beaches Resorts Italian Village Main Pool
And the next time, when we bring Red, I think he will really enjoy the Kids Camp.  The kids center has an incredibly clean splash pool, toys, activities (face painting, puppets, magic shows), plenty of certified caretakers and regular Sesame Street visits.  With hours from 9-6, and after hours for bigger kids, Chase and I could escape to snorkel or scuba, or have a private dinner for two.  If we ever needed to continue our romantic evening alone, a certified babysitting service is available for small charge.    

Sounds pretty awesome, right?! And just when I thought it couldn't get any better, the Social Media on the Sand conference set a challenge before me... It was Instagram Scavenger Hunt, asking us to capture 50 different scenarios; everything from a selfie with a stranger, to checking out the excursions, to exploring the beachfront, and having dining experiences.  I was so into it! Because I'm no good at sports, I stink at trivia and small things are my bag, I wanted to try to get all 50 photos in less than 3 days.  Could I do it?! I HAD to.  It was my personal challenge.  Below are just a smattering of my photos - a mere half!
Beaches Social Media on the Sand Instagram Scavenger Hunt
50 hours after starting the challenge, I was finished! My list was capped off by meeting the Chairman and Founder of the Sandals and Beaches brands, Mr. Gordon "Butch" Stewart.  I was so overwhelmed by the good of the Sandals Foundation and this absolute slice of heaven in the caribbean that I almost had no words to give Mr. Stewart.  In fact, after I introduced myself, he said, "Oh, honey, I know all about you!  Please, tell me, what do you think of our place?" and I cried on him.  I totally cried.  Out of awe, thankfulness, appreciation and surprise that he was so magnanimous and spoke to me like I was the only person on the planet while he was on vacation with his family and friends.  It was one of the most grateful experiences I've ever had.  

And after that cleansing, happy moment of the trip, I headed to another conference function that brought our official time on the island to an end.  There, they announced 10 awesome ladies that won superlative prizes for the best selfies, most engaging photos and the grand prize winner who was to receive a trip back to the island with their family.... and it was ME.  Right?! I was Flabbergasted. Shocked.  Excited.  Elated.  Happy.  Grateful.  And so happy to bring Chase and Red back with me.  What an amazing thing. Once again, no words. 
Beaches Resorts Turks and Caicos Instagram Scavenger Hunt
I can't wait to take my family back to Beaches (and not just the prize trip... I'm talking for years to come) to experience the restaurants, the excursions, the highest level of service and the mission of the Sandals Foundation.  I will always recommend a Beaches trip more than a cruise, or any other all-inclusive resort.  It was a mind-blowing experience, and I hope that you make it there, too!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why eShakti Can't Actually Customize Dresses...

Thank you to eShakti for providing a garment for review.  As you will see, all thoughts and opinions are my own.  Affiliate links may be used.

I have very good body image. I know that I'm not perfect, but I eat better than I used to (even as of 3 years ago) and I'm at the most active point in my life.  With a little hard work and acceptance of my genetics, I can find a lot of outfits that fit and flatter.  But, sometimes even this is a challenge.  When I was approached by Eshakti to review a customized garment with specific measurements, I jumped on that bandwagon fast.  I became really excited because I have a real person's body, not a model's body. I'm short, with huge hips and a super short waist. The idea of customizing a dress to my measurements is really attractive, so naturally I was anticipating my shipment.  

I chose sleeveless trapeze dress, which is a dress silhouette made famous in the 60s and 80s, fitting the shoulders and bust, and having a drastic A-line swing at the hem.  this dress even had a ruffle at the bottom, adding to the hem width.  It's a free-hanging silhouette, and therefore one of the most forgiving for hippy gals like myself.  You'll notice a series of measurements that I provided the company, along with hem and sleeve requests.  But I was surprised that the only vertical measurements they asked for were my arms and my height.  
eShakti doesn't' really get the correct measurements from you. Hear why this company can't really customize anyhing for your body...
As a costume designer, I was dumbfounded.  If you find another person that is the exact same height as you, chances are that your waists are not in the same spot.  Neither are your boobs, your knees,  or even your rib cage.  That's what makes us different, and vertical measurements matter just as much as horizontal measurements (hips, bust, waist) in garment construction.  This is another reason that I chose a free-hanging dress rather than a tailored piece.  Because these eShakti dresses really aren't tailored...

When the box arrived, I ripped it out of the shipping container and slapped it on. My fears were confirmed.  This picture of the unaltered upper torso shows you what I meant. See my undergarments in the armseye? You could fit a small dog in there.  Also, the bust line is precariously low.  Not to mention that even though I provided my bust measurement, I had to take in the side FOUR INCHES and there was still room to move.  I even took in the shoulder straps 1" each to lift the armseye and the bust line.  This, in turn, also took up the hem to the ACTUAL knee line that I requested.  Again, how can you create the right hemline if you don't ask for a nape to knee measurement?!  I don't get it...
eShakti doesn't' really get the correct measurements from you. Hear why this company can't really customize anyhing for your body...
But if you're reading this, saying, "But Lindsey.. you chose a free flowing garment - of course it doesn't fit!" listen to this: The lining underneath the paisley cotton was a closer fit than the shell, and still didn't fit properly. The hipline may be free flowing, but the top shell of the dress was way too big.  Had I taken a chance and ordered something with an actual waistline and skirt, the torso would have still been too big and billowy because of where the waistline was supposed to sit. So, I actually saved myself some larger alterations.  
 Now, please know that the cottons used to make the dress were very nice. The fabrics were soft and the construction was just fine. No loose threads, lingerie straps for bras (which were rendered useless after my alteration) and even serging all the way around.  The tag was majorly itchy, so that sucker got cut out of the lining seconds after this photo...
 Now, once I altered the dress to actually fit my body (which gets rid of any customization factor the company offers), I added my jean jacket to help reign in all the fabric and tossed on a pair of my favorite Lucchese western boots.  My black leather clutch, bangle and some jewelry rounded out the outfit for a summer to fall transition look, which is perfect for Atlanta this time of year. 
Summer to Fall transition look with cowboy boots and paisley trapeze dress
 My outfit additions are extremely comfortable, old standby items that I know make me feel good and matched the dress very well.  Even Hubs made a comment about how the finished the look was, and snapped a few photos for us on our date night.  After the disappointment of having to alter an already customized dress, that made me feel pretty awesome.  
Summer to fall transition look with paisley trapeze dress and Lucchese cowboy boots
Eshakti has been campaigning: Real Fashion for Real People, which is a really admirable slogan, but since I'm a real person, and the customization factor isn't REALLY good, I'm a little disappointed.  I don't think I'll be ordering from eShakti until they step up their measurement process.  Tall folks, as well as short kids, will find that the process is lacking, even though you can choose sleeves, colors and accents.  If you're marketing a customized, measured dress, you'd better be sure that it fits!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

It's Fall, ya'll! And before you shoot off complaining that everything's made of pumpkin nowadays (and really... isn't it?!) like lattes, pancakes, turnovers and the old fashioned pie, I want you to try something for me.  Make this bread. I'm begging you.  Hit the store, use what you have in your pantry and make it.  Because your mouth will thank you. With the mass of mini chocolate chips and the lemon glaze, even pumpkin haters like this bread, because it's SO moist, flavorful and belly-warming.  

Red, who is the pickiest eater on the planet, even asked for his own slice after I forced asked him to try a bite.  When Hubs found out he couldn't eat the SECOND loaf I  made because I wanted to photograph it, be went to bed super bummed.  So please: try making this awesomeness for yourself, because I'm pretty sure scratch-and-sniff internet hasn't been invented yet.
A little pumpkin, a little cinnamon, and a heaping of mini chocolate chips give this Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread it's perfect flavor. Add a light sugar lemon glaze and dig in!
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread slices, perfect for the fall season and a sweet addition to breakfast!
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread
Ingredients:
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 cups organic unbleached sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 cup water
1 cup melted coconut oil
2 cups canned pumpkin puree (make sure it's plain, NOT pumpkin pie puree)
4 eggs
1 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Glaze:
powdered sugar
milk
lemon juice 

Directions: 
Preheat Oven to 350° degrees.

Grease and flour (or use baking PAM) two small loaf pans.  
Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl, and set aside. 
Mix together wet ingredients in a bowl. 
Introduce dry ingredients to wet ingredients until well combined. Stir in mini chocolate chips.

Fill greased pans about 3/4 full.
Bake large loaves for 1 hour, or until done.

Mix glaze ingredients to desired consistency. Whisk together at your discretion to create a thick, creamy drizzle.  The key is more sugar than anything else, so add your lemon and milk to thin it out.

Remove loaf from oven. Let cool for 10-15 minutes. Drizzle with glaze, slice and serve.
Make this Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread for your house guests and the will swoon with delight!
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